You don’t have to be a Dubai sheikh to get your hands on a cheetah these days. Visitors to the Mother city can indulge in the unique Cape Town luxury of interacting closely with these gorgeous cats at the Cheetah Outreach Project.
‘Once upon a time’ cheetahs were trained as hunting animals and often found in the company of royalty in the field. The ancient Egyptians believed that cheetahs could carry their souls to the afterlife and deified these regal cats, but now cheetahs are in serious trouble. Their numbers are in dramatic decline due to a combination of loss of habitat as well as hunting, and they may soon disappear altogether.
In fact, if it weren’t for concerted conservation efforts by concerned individuals the world would already be looking for another animal to wear the crown of fastest land mammal.
The Cheetah Outreach project started out in Stellenbosch almost a decade ago, on a piece of land generously donated by Spier Wine Estate, but the operation has since moved to the Somerset Mall at Paardevlei. This makes these graceful cats more accessible to the man on the street and gives their message greater reach among both urban and rural communities.
This message is simple – the cheetah is not just something ‘out there’, it is a vital part of our natural heritage and must be preserved. By getting to meet the cheetahs at the centre, people learn to recognise them as a valuable part of the ecosystem and begin to understand the very real dangers that face them.
A stroll through the Cheetah Outreach Project soon reveals the personalities of each inhabitant – several feline ambassadors with names like Zsa Zsa, Shan, Savannah, Charlie, Shadow and Kai.
Visitors get to touch these adult cheetahs and cubs while on a guided tour, in the company of an informed guide, as well as meet the other endangered species which have found shelter at Cheetah Outreach.
You will also meet a pack of Anatolian Shepard dogs which are bred at the project and then sent to help farmers protect their livestock from predators. These large dogs are easily able to scare off raiders, reducing livestock losses by animal predation, and eliminating the need to shoot these predators, including cheetah.
A trip to the Cheetah Outreach Project is an unusual Cape Town luxury and an unforgettable wildlife experience within easy reach of the city centre.